Don’t Just Say It, Screencast It

Supporting student learning has gotten easier with modern tools like TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio 5 ($179, educational price) and Matchware’s ScreenCorder 5 ($189, educational price). Camtasia allows you to record your on-screen actions, add narration, pop-up speech bubbles, and illustrations to a video in a variety of shareable formats. Both Camtasia and Screencorder are very good if you are looking to purchase desktop recording software. You can download the Camtasia or ScreenCorder 5 trial to find the solution that work best for you.

Creating screencasts can be a great way for teachers to maximize instructional time by making technical explanations and classroom lessons available for students to review outside of class.

Screencasting would also be a an effectual means of individualizing instruction for struggling students. How much more productive could the middle school math teacher be if a series of step-by-step instructional videos were created on solving equations or working with integers? Students can also create videos to either demonstrate knowledge of a process or as part of a classroom project.

Camtasia and SreenCorder are good, but money for software may not be in the budget. There are two free alternatives for you to consider – uTipu and CamStudio. Both programs are completely free and easy to use. I prefer uTipu, but both will do the job. Be sure to check your district’s policy regarding the installation of software.

Screencasting does require a time commitment. Consider using students to create and produce the videos. The result is mutually beneficial.

Musopen! Copyright Free Music

MusOpen! (www.musopen.com) is a growing collection of online music, completely free of all copyright restrictions. MusOpen! is maintained by a non-profit organization with the express goal of “setting music free” by making recordings of sheet music in the public domain. In short, MusOpen! works with artists that are interested in making copyright-free music available to everyone. You can read more on the legal stuff here if you are the curious type.

The quality of the songs is surprisingly good (320kbps bit rate) and is available for streaming or download. Sheet music is also available for download and may be of interest to music teachers and students alike.

MusOpen! is “setting music free” as claimed, but it is hardly a large scale jailbreak. The collection is currently limited to roughly one hundred, classical performances. The sparse library is a bit disappointing, but the idea is innovative and has potential.

I am pleased to see sites like MusOpen popping up on the Internet. It is difficult to find no-cost, legal audio sources to direct students to as they create technology-based projects. You can read more about sources for multimedia in the classroom in a previous posting.

You may also have occasion to use a copyrighted work for instruction or in some way to promote your school. Copyright law still applies, regardless of your intentions. There are several good sources on the web for educating yourself on your legal limits of fair use. I found one good site here.